At the very least, East lives up to billing

It’s a good thing for Miami’s allegedly defending champions that they can’t fall out of this race. Otherwise, losing Dwyane Wade would have done it.

Coach Pat Riley rejoined them, trying to accentuate the positive -- “There’s something about this team, in spite of how we blew the start of the season.”

Riley may have already been asking himself why he came back with the Rockets leading by 10 in the fourth quarter when Wade dislocated his shoulder.

Nevertheless, Miami is still No. 8 in the tepid East race at 26-28. The No. 9 Nets just lost seven of 11 while shopping their stars. No. 7 Orlando is 13-24 since starting 14-5.

Wade is considering season-ending surgery or a six-week rehab that could let him return for the playoffs.


It’s never over till it’s over. In the East, it’s not even over then.

Now a word from our icon

With Charlotte boss Michael Jordan’s post-megastar aversion to public appearances except on behalf of his Jumpman brand, the Bobcats are left with no spokesman.

Jordan has talked to the local media twice since June and keeps his appearances at games secret.

However, he just wrote season-ticket holders, praising the young players but making no reference to Coach Bernie Bickerstaff while noting that “we are disappointed” with their record and asking fans to “please maintain the same drive, passion and commitment that I have.”

The fans are in hiding too.

An announced 13,007 saw last week’s win over their old team, the Hornets, with returning Wake Forest star Chris Paul.

(What) trade front?

After a week of breathless reports, Portland’s Juan Dixon goes to Toronto for Fred Jones?

Then there were all the trembling reports about the Lakers and Jason Kidd. The Nets were trolling for Andrew Bynum (no chance) while the Lakers tried to see if the Nets were desperate enough to dump Kidd’s salary to give him away.

The only real significance is to show who may be available this summer:

* Kidd -- He’s 34 with $41 million coming the next two seasons as the Nets look toward their 2009 move to Brooklyn.

* Vince Carter -- Nets President Rod Thorn said Carter told them he’ll opt out but a sign-and-trade is more likely.

* Paul Pierce -- Suggesting the Celtics trade their No. 1 pick shows how in touch he is. May finally ask to be traded.

* Pau Gasol -- The Grizzlies just spent a month shopping him so he can’t be untouchable.

* Mike Bibby -- He doesn’t dig Ron Artest and the Kings know they have to start over.

* Channing Frye -- The Knicks’ prize rookie last season now plays behind even bigger, softer Eddy Curry.

* Jason Richardson -- The Warriors have cheaper young comers such as Monta Ellis and Mickael Pietrus.

* Kevin Garnett -- He’s b-a-c-k, noting the Timberwolves made no moves (“typical”), adding, “Thank God for opt-outs.”

* Corey Maggette -- Owner Donald T. Sterling’s intervention was based on the sentimental (aw) but mistaken (duh) impression that Maggette wants to be here.

* Kwame Brown -- Have birthday cake, will travel.

Famous last words

Shaquille O’Neal, on being an All-Star starter after playing 10 games: “I’m like President Bush. You may not like me, you may not respect me, but you voted me in.”